Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) usage guidelines are applicable for all healthcare professionals working in any type of healthcare facility used for coronavirus testing or treatment. These include phlebotomists, doctors at quarantine centres, laboratory workers, nurses and all other staff working at/for their respective centres.
Recommended PPE for Collecting Samples
PPE includes gloves, medical/surgical masks, face shield or goggles, gowns. However, for specific procedures, aprons and respirators like N95 or FFP2 standard or equivalent are mandatory. As coronavirus is a respiratory disease, the PPE usage to test COVID-19 differs from those used for other types of infectious diseases.
Here is a list of appropriate PPE for patient’s care with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 case:
Using non-sterile, disposable patient isolation gowns (used for routine patient care in healthcare facilities) is essential at point-of-care (POC) for COVID-19 patients. In case of unavailability, coveralls are effectively acceptable as an alternative.
In sound regions, it is also recommended to use shoe covers with impermeable fabric at POC. Healthcare workers using gowns must use head covers to cover the head and neck. Ensure your hair fits well inside the cover. You do not need a headcover if you are using coveralls, as it usually covers the head.
Usage of non-sterile disposable patient examination gloves (used for routine patient care in healthcare facilities) is most effective at POC. Using natural rubber, polychloroprene or nitrile gloves are most recommended due to its standard specifications.
Do not use respirators outside of a workplace facility or community.
A respirator is a personal protective device that is worn on the head or face. It is used to cover the nose and mouth. A respirator is used to reduce an individual’s risk of inhaling hazardous airborne particles (including infectious agents), gases or vapors.
Use standard N95 FFR (Filter Facepiece Respirator) and not surgical N95 respirators for coronavirus point-of-care. N95 respirators are mandatory for HCP (Healthcare Personnel) handling COVID-19.
Note: Before using a respirator or getting fit-tested, workers must have a medical evaluation to make sure that they are able to wear a respirator safely.
Care workers are recommended to wear surgical masks and avoid using face masks; as face masks do not protect from respiratory diseases like coronavirus. Surgical masks can be often termed as face masks but not all face masks are regulated as surgical masks. HCP must ensure that these masks are not used more than once.
Eye Protection (Goggles)
Use goggles or disposable face shields (covering the front side of the face) as eye protection during POC. Avoid personal eyeglasses or contact lenses as they can be contaminated. Use a disinfectant and clean reusable goggles before use.
Note: COVID-19 is a respiratory disease that is different from the Ebola virus disease, which is transmitted through infected bodily fluids. Due to these differences in transmission, the PPE requirements for COVID-19 are different from those required for Ebola virus disease. Specifically, coveralls (sometimes called Ebola PPE) are not required when managing COVID-19 patients. (as per the WHO)
Preventive Measures to Follow after PPE Usage
Preventive and mitigation measures are entailed in both healthcare and community settings. The most effective preventive measures in the community include:
- Hand hygiene Wash them frequently with an alcohol-based hand rub or with soap and water
- Avoid touching your face — Keep your hands from touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
- Respiratory hygiene — Cover your mouth into a bent elbow or tissue while coughing or sneezing. Dispose the tissue immediately. In case you show symptoms of respiratory illness, wear a mask and perform hand hygiene soon after disposing of the mask.
- Social distancing — Maintain a minimum of 1 meter from individuals with symptoms of respiratory ailments.
Additional precautions are necessary by healthcare workers to protect themselves and prevent transmission in the healthcare facility.
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